“Chris, sometimes it is better to be kind than it is to be right.”
When one of my spiritual mentors spoke these words to me one day, they hit me like a ton of bricks. He wasn’t sharing these words with me as a memorable quip or a leadership lesson to reflect on later. He was pinpointing an area of my life which required growth because he had observed a behavior in me that needed to be challenged.
Many of us wouldn’t want to admit to not being kind. After all, isn’t kindness something that we were all taught by our parents from a young age? And of course, having received kindness from God, wouldn’t we be eager to show kindness to people everywhere? Of course I like the idea of showing kindness, but as my spiritual mentor shared with me that day, I can actually have a tendency to be unkind. This can be a hard truth to admit, but if we aren’t willing to take the first step and bring the areas of our life that aren’t Christ-like into the light, then how can we possibly pursue greater Christ-likeness and grow into greater spiritual maturity?
Admitting that I can be unkind from time to time is one thing, but the real work and source of potential pain lies in understanding why I may choose unkindness to begin with. As I took some time to reflect, I began to recognize the triggers that pierce my heart and influence my choices. One of the primary triggers that can lead me into being unkind is just plain selfishness and wanting to have things done my way. At its core, there is an inflated sense of self that is standing on a platform of pride. I have had to learn that being unkind with my words or my attitudes when I don’t get my way is childish, and selfishness is more befitting of my old nature than the new creation I am today. But we are not children and we are not our old self. We are now men of God, and we can choose to be kind to our spouse, our kids, and our coworkers if for no other reason than we ourselves are the recipients of a kindness that we can never repay (Titus 3:4-6, Romans 2:4). It is a heart that is empty of selfishness and pride, and filled instead with gratitude for God’s indescribable kindness to us, that will empower us to be kind to others especially when there is nothing to be gained from such an act.
Whether the trigger is wanting my own way or just selfishness, and perhaps for you it could be something completely different, but I have found that the areas where I need to grow the most end up showing me the continual need I have for God’s transformative truth and God’s healing touch. When I choose unkindness, which is rarely – if ever – warranted, I am shining a light on the crevices of my heart that are coated in selfishness. And when that light shines, it is not a healing light but an uncomfortable and unpleasant light that is, at the same time, deeply humbling. But whether I struggle with kindness, or some other character trait, no flaw is beyond the power of God to redeem it, restore it, and use it for His glory and Kingdom purposes. But I must be willing to admit that those areas exist, and that those areas cannot be solely dealt with in my own knowledge or in my own strength. I need others to point them out to me, much like my spiritual mentor did when he saw me being unkind. And I also need others to walk with me as I go through the pruning process towards greater love, grace, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and other Christian virtues I need in my life.
You and I can take great comfort in knowing that while we may recoil in horror at our own hearts, Jesus doesn’t, as is so eloquently stated in this quote by Max Lucado:
“Our Savior kneels down and gazes upon the darkest acts of our lives. But rather than recoil in horror, he reaches out in kindness and says, ‘I can clean that if you want.’ ”
God’s kindness is a tremendous gift we can both receive and also demonstrate to others. But I believe that if we want to demonstrate to our spouse, our kids, and a needy world the kindness of God, we must allow His Son to bring a cleansing touch to the cracks in our hearts that influence our character and the attitudes, words and decisions we make. What areas of your heart and your character are in need of Jesus’ kind touch that alone can bring cleansing and healing?
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